Back to … WORK

On Monday I went back to work.

It was my first time heading off to work in more than 6 years; my first day of work as a mother – outside the home, that is. My last day of work was the day my water broke with Julian; he was born the next day, and I never looked back.

The 6 years at home with the boys were wonderful. Sure, sometimes our days were long, I was tired, kids were cranky and sick, but you know how memory works. It helps you choose to remember the great times. And there were many. I feel so fortunate that I had this time with them, that we were able to pull this off. I’ll cherish these years forever.

This job opportunity sort of fell into my lap, and I would have been an idiot not seize the moment. I wasn’t actively looking (yet!), but it was a perfect opportunity. A German company, colleagues from all over the globe, part-time hours. I’m doing admin and PR. And I can still pick up the boys from school. For them nothing changes. Except now they ask me at pick-up, “Mama, how was work?”

The first week is in the books now. I don’t work Fridays, since that’s the day Arthur doesn’t attend pre-school.

What has changed? Jeff and I get up earlier. I put on something other than sweatpants. That part is kind of fun!

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And I make three lunches. Mine look unspectacular compared to the boys, but it’s nice to eat with my colleagues. We all sit down together at a big table to eat, and afterwards the table converts into a ping pong table! How fun is that?!

I’m happy. Monday was great. After work we went to see Roger Waters with some friends. What a fantastic show!!

Tuesday was stressful. I guess the adrenaline had worn off; after work I had to run to make it to pick-up on time. Then Arthur and I had two hours to kill while Julian played after school soccer. Our coffee date was lovely; playground was next, and then we roamed the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. At the end of which I was exhausted.

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When I picked Julian up from school I noticed that he had lost his first tooth! Which is great news because * it happened! * Yay! and terrible, devastating news because he hadn’t noticed at all and of course the tooth was gone. Julian broke down in tears. His friends assured him that the tooth fairy still visits even if the tooth is lost, and eventually he lightened up.

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The tooth fairy lived up to her reputation and left Julian his first ever comic book: Scooby-Doo! Team Up! Also some cash, because apparently that’s always a winner. Julian loved the book so much. He read every waking minute he was not in school until the book was finished.

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Wednesday night Arthur started getting sick. He had a fever, snotty nose, and a cough that for him always leads to wheezing. He was so sad. We were up for a while with him in the night, and I decided we wouldn’t send him to school the next day. Which is totally not a problem when you have a stay-at-home parent but kind of problematic when you don’t. “Luckily” Jeff has been working 15 hour days and thought it’d be ok if he stayed home with Arthur until I got back from work in the early afternoon. It worked out, and I feel like we managed our first trial just fine. Also helpful: Julian is now able to take the bus to school! It doesn’t make sense for us on any day other than Friday (when Arthur doesn’t go to school), because we still need to drop off Arthur a couple of blocks from Julian’s school anyway. But today (and tomorrow) Julian was a school bus kid. He was pumped!

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So week one is done. I’m excited for this new chapter in our lives. The biggest moment for me was on Monday, when I left work, stepped outside and thought, “Wow. I haven’t thought about my children in 5 hours.” That is something that I can genuinely say has never happened before. Even with them in school, I’d still go about my day with them in mind. Errands, house work, everything was centered around my family. Having some time every day where that is not the case is probably good. At least this week I felt like I missed the kids more, even though I didn’t actually spend any more time away from them than in the weeks when I didn’t go to work.

Onward!

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Back-to-School Feels

The boys are back in school. And I am, well, a bit sad.

In previous summers I think I kind of anticipated this day. By the end, the boys were getting to me, and I was ready. But not this year.

This summer was my favorite summer ever. I loved our trips to the Catskills, California, and the Poconos. I loved hanging out with the boys. They are so fun, so clever, so enjoyable. Sure, they have their moments, but overall they are people whose company I enjoy.

There were good times with friends; date nights with my husband. Arthur learned how to ride his bike; Julian plowed through the Wimpy Kid books. We picked up bagels and lox and ate them at our favorite playground near the Promenade, played on the beach, jumped in the pool and went on rides in Coney Island. We read books, napped, watched TV, watched people from our stoop. I went running. On the last day of summer break, Julian joined me for a run over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. It was my most favorite run ever. Not only did he pump his little legs fast enough to help me keep a good pace, I also loved chatting with him and just having him around. Afterwards, we brought home donuts for breakfast.

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But of course as all summers tend to do, this one ended. The kids returned to school. Julian was very excited; no nerves at all. He had his first day on Tuesday, which began with traditional photos on our stoop and then a lovely welcome ceremony at the school. The kid was back in his element. Also, look at these giant feet.

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Arthur had his first day on Thursday. He seemed a bit more reserved, but once he entered his school building, he was off and basically forgot to say good-bye. For shock effect, he requested a short hair do the day before. I cried. But he was happy, and I totally love it, too. He now looks like a 15 year old.

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Per our tradition, we celebrated the first day of school with donuts.

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Both boys had spectacular first days. Julian is happy to be with his friends again, and he likes his new teachers. Arthur was giddy and bouncy and told me about all the details of his day. I could tell he was so happy.

Here’s to a new season in our lives. I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m feeling so sentimental right now. I just do. The boys are growing up so fast. Too fast. But it’s also exciting. It’s fun to watch them grow, to see their relationship deepen, their interests develop, their personalities shine. I just love these creatures so much.

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And today, as if to reassure me that my boys still had some baby left in them, this happened. We’ll be ok.

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Life Stuff

This summer is fleeting. No summer has ever felt so fast, so short. I’m not ready for the boys to go back to school!

We’ve been enjoying a good mix of fun, busy days and lazy days riding bikes around the neighborhood and hanging out at the playground. The boys have been playing with their friends a bit, and of course Julian is busy reading. He’s finished the first two books of the Wimpy kid series and is now on his third. He’s also still keeping his journal, every night. Sometimes I catch myself thinking about a day 30 years from now when I find his write-ups of our summer and our life together, and I smile.

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Last week we hit the beach with our friends. Beach days are my favorite.

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This week we went to Central Park. We had lunch at the Ballfield Cafe, where we were happy to see the waitress we met the last time we were there, a couple of months ago. She also remembered us and immediately produced a little drawing Arthur had done for her from her wallet. I love little reminders like this in our everyday life. Reminders that there are good people everywhere, that we are connected even though it doesn’t always feel like it. Look at these faces. There is good in the world.

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There’s been plenty of ice cream and bike riding. I just can’t say no to ice cream.

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We’ve hung out with friends, BBQed, eaten about a hundred peaches, and played plenty of Legos. I’ve been reading a lot. The boys are besties and spend most of their time together Ghostbusting, Ninja-ing and whatnot.

I’m sentimental for many reasons. The boys are growing up. This beautiful summer is flying by. This season in my life is so good. I wish I could bottle up some of these moments for darker seasons – or, you know, winter.

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California Love

Here is my next vacation report. Because it’s summer, and that is what we do.

When I was 19, I spent one year in Minnesota as an au pair. I helped take care of three little ones, Stone (then 6), Kamron (then 2), and a baby girl, Roxonna.

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Fast forward to now: 18 years later. You do the math.

We’ve always been close, and I have visited this wonderful family both in Minnesota and in the Bay Area near San Francisco, where they live now, countless times. However, since the kids it’s become a bit less frequent. The last time we went to see them was 5 years ago when Julian was a baby (and he knocked out a tooth when we visited Twin Peaks).

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Julian, Arthur and I spent a wonderful week with these special people. From the moment I saw them again, it was just like coming home. It is every time. They embraced my children, loved them, spoiled them. It was so delightful and memorable and special in every way. Here is Arthur sleeping in a blanket that I remember wrapping around Roxonna when she was a baby.

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The majority of our time there was spent in the pool. The boys loved every second of it, and so did I.

The rest of the time was spent eating. Every night was a feast, and the boys quickly adapted to their new schedule of eating dinner at 10pm, a swim afterwards, and snoozing next to mama until late morning the next day. It’s the Iranian way (I think?).

I was spoiled with some incredible meals…

..and even better company.

Other highlights included a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco…

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…including a “fake” trolley ride. (The lines were just too long.)

Also, a trip to Half Moon Bay…

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…and a trip with all the kids (using that term loosely here since most of them are in their 20s and 30s) including cousins and older siblings to Golden Gate Park…

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Lots of hiking for these boys! This park is 20% bigger than Central Park, so needless to say we didn’t see it all. But the boys got to play at a playground, ride a carousel, hike up a mountain, and see some buffalo. Also, Arthur was carried a good bit. He was lucky to have so many willing helpers.

What a week this was! I got to see most of the extended family, people I’ve known and loved for years, and even though we don’t see each other often, it’s just like nothing has changed. It feels really good. And now my kids are part of the pack!

The trip home was pretty horrendous. Arthur got car sick as we pulled into the airport and threw up all over himself, the borrowed car seat, and Amir’s baby – the Maserati. I felt awful for him, and for our friends who had to ride home with that stinky car seat. I stripped Arthur and quickly grabbed some pajamas out of the suitcase before checking it.  I washed him off in the airport bathroom, and he was good as new. The flight was painful. Both boys slept, but only because 1. Julian is a saint and literally let Arthur kick him in the face and put his legs all over him and 2. because I am a saint and I let Arthur roll around for hours while accommodating his sleepy body with mine. It will not be repeated.

Now we’re home. We all took a two hour nap together and felt somewhat rejuvenated, but also still tired enough to complain pretty much all day. We miss our friends already – but are also so excited to see Jeff tonight! We missed him all week, and there is just something that feels perfectly right about being back home.

Beach, Beach, more Beach!

What a weekend! Jeff and I both agreed this morning that we needed an extra day to relax from all the fun we had. But alas, it’s Monday and back to the grind.

On Saturday morning we got on our bikes right away and headed to our favorite place: Coney Island! We made it to the ocean in an hour and fifteen minutes – not too bad for two middle aged folks riding two heavy bikes loaded with everything needed for a beach day. Oh, and two kids.

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We hung out on the beach for a few hours, ate watermelon, played in the water, and dug in the sand. The boys couldn’t care less that this isn’t the loveliest of beaches; they just have fun. And so did we.

Then we got hungry and needed hot dogs immediately. They were delicious.

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The rest of the afternoon was our typical Coney Island fun: Wonder Wheel, rides, ice cream.

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Then we rode back towards home. Right around Park Slope our legs were getting tired, so we decided to stop for dinner. We stumbled upon this lovely place, sat outside, and filled our bellies with meats & cheeses, pasta, and mussels. Arthur ate all my seafood, and I stole bites of his pasta. We were so happy and full – and very tired. We rode home as the sun was setting, showered, and fell into bed.

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On Sunday we decided we hadn’t had enough of the beach, so we headed to Rockaway. We wanted to try the new NYC Ferry, and so we rode the bikes to the Wall Street stop and took the ferry over. It was pretty smooth, but only because we got in line early. Many people who arrived after us had to wait for the next boat, which only comes every hour.

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We rode the bikes around Rockaway for a bit and then found us a nice spot on the beach. We stayed there all day, played in the waves, ate sandwiches, chips, watermelon. Beach life is simply the best. We all took naps, too. Delightful.

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Before we headed home we wanted to grab a quick dinner and randomly found this very strange place that has fast food and shakes on the menu – and an assortment of old toys in the yard.

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Hot dogs and shakes for life.

Then we made a mistake and rode our bikes around the boardwalk for a bit. It was so lovely out. Bands were playing, happy people everywhere. Except: When we arrived at the ferry dock, there were so many people in line already, and the ferries were so backed up that we had to wait for more than an hour. So that was fun. (Next time we’ll take the train again. The NYC Ferries are fun in theory, but so overcrowded it sucks the joy and convenience right out of it.)

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We killed time on the boat by drinking a beer, making silly hairdos, and playing games.

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We arrived home at 10pm. The kids were exhausted, although honestly not as much as we were. Today we all slept a little later, and even though I’m sure we’re all a bit tired still, we have made a bunch of unforgettable memories this weekend.

Easy Living

Something amazing has been happening lately. It’s something that I think I remember from the past, something that feels vaguely familiar, something I wasn’t expecting, but something I’m totally excited to welcome back: let’s call it “adult life.”

You know, going out with friends, dates, independence. All of this has seemed like a bit of a foreign concept occasionally throughout the years, but I have a firm notion that they are here to stay now.

There have been a bunch of small and big changes lately that are showing me that the kids are growing up. I mean, I knew that already, but when your kids are small, it’s often difficult to see the light simply because you are always tired.

Julian asked about an allowance recently, so we came up with a chore system, and it’s been wonderful. Each day the boys get a few “chores” that are always the same. This includes: getting dressed before they come out of their room at 7am, making their beds, putting their clothes away at night, brushing their teeth. And then each day I’ll include one or two additional chores, like emptying the dishwasher, cleaning/wiping the sink, dusting, sorting socks on laundry day, etc. Julian is obsessed with this new concept. He does all his chores, never complains, and always consults his “chart” to see what’s next. It’s just right up his ally. Arthur does most of his chores happily; he’s just not as excited – which is fine. It’s mostly for Julian, but we couldn’t give him an allowance and not one to Arthur. So $3 per week it is. The first two weeks have already been invested in an online order for fake Lego stuff sent from China – because that is how we roll. The other benefit of this whole thing is that I don’t have to sort socks.

In general, the kids are in an easy phase. Yes, there is still plenty to complain about (Mostly: why does my toilet constantly smell like pee no matter how much I scrub it?! Answer: boys.), but let’s not dwell on the negative. The boys are becoming very independent. Arthur plays endlessly with his lego people (Star Wars, of course), and his imagination is just incredible. Julian draws detailed road maps almost every day. He studies the roads and markings during our bike rides and then tries to recreate his favorites at home. He writes and reads, is helpful, sweet, caring. Arthur lets us sleep through the night (Yes, I know, he’s four and that should be a given, but believe me, it is not). Also, showers. And this one might seem silly, but I think it will revolutionize our summer. My children have finally accepted showers as an alternative to baths (that always take forever and somehow water always ends up on the floor – looking at you, Arthur). They shower on their own, put their pajamas on by themselves, and really, what are you needed for, Mom Lady?

Four and six are really enjoyable ages so far.

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Another thing that has sort of just “happened” is a renewed desire to take care of myself. I’ve been reading voraciously again – something I have always loved, but haven’t always had time/energy to do when my babies were, well, babies. 

Also, I have started working out again and even picked up running. The last time I tried that was after I had Arthur, and it was challenging to work up to being able to run 5k. Now I feel much stronger, and this week I ran three times. My favorite run was one morning at 6am over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Chinatown, and back home over the Manhattan Bridge. I ran almost 7km that day – and I felt pumped. What a feeling it is to run through this city that I love so much, while most people are still in bed, and the sun has just risen. Magical.

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Everything just seems to be in a good place right now (I hope I’m not jinxing things). I’m in love with my husband, I love hanging out with friends, and my kids are actually enjoyable companions.

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So to all the tired folks with young kids: I know people always say it gets easier. That’s because it truly does. You’ll be able to leave the house again without a screaming kid in tow, you’ll be able to grocery shop in peace even though you have your sidekicks with you, and occasionally they will even carry said groceries home for you. You’ll be able to sleep again and do all the things you used to love.

Oh, and somehow I manage to finish my coffee most mornings. Something that you only appreciate if you’ve been drinking hurried sips of lukewarm coffee for years.

May the Fourth…

…be with us all.

Last night I foolishly allowed the boys to sleep in my bed. Jeff is away for work all week, so I had the space – or so I  thought. Let me just say: Arthur snores like an old man and moves around like a monkey on steroids. Suffice to say, it was a restless night (for me).

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At 6am Julian woke up and said, “I’m 6!”

And so he is. There was no time to waste; he had to open presents immediately.

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Also, pancakes.

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Arthur screamed intermittently from 6am to 9am (when I left him at his school) because it was not his birthday. Damn you nature (i.e. planned c-section) for making his birthday be three whole days later. Being the younger brother is hard sometimes (all the time?).

Anyway. Julian brought a cake to school.

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He said his classmates sang to him four times (apparently that’s a huge deal). He was beaming when I picked him up from school. Him, and 8 of his closest friends. Because who doesn’t like to be in charge of a bunch of sugar-hungry 5-6 year olds?

Also, I was that person with a bunch of balloons on the subway. No one even looked at me twice. I love New York.

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Traveling in style, me and my trusty grocery cart.

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(I’d dropped off the piñata and 40 juice boxes in our giant beach bag at school the previous day. But the boxed wine needed to be chilled, because priorities. So that’s why I needed the cart.)

Once some other brave moms and I made all these children safely cross Eastern Parkway, they all ran loose at the park. I’d thought up a bunch of games, but they immediately started playing soccer. And that was just as well. Then there was the piñata:

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Also, the aftermath. Only about three children cried because they didn’t get enough candy. It was mostly the kids who were smart enough not to roll around in the dirt. Note: my kids were not among them and went diving in.

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Meanwhile, I put my friend in charge of pouring wine.

Then, because 4 pounds of candy wasn’t enough, there was a donut cake. Which is just a bunch of donuts piled on top of each other. It’s genius because a) no baking required b) no plates required c) no clean-up required d) children insanely happy.

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We sang happy birthday and devoured a bunch of fried dough.

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Then the kids ran around, climbed some trees, and rode their scooters. Julian got a new scooter for his birthday, but of course I didn’t take a single picture of it.

In fact, I didn’t take any pictures. Because my phone died. But when I came home I had received emails from from probably six or seven moms and babysitters who had all sent me their photos. And that made my heart melt. Also the fact that we have found this amazing community of kids and families. What a blessing and what a joy to see my children run around the park with their good friends, and how lucky for me that the moms are equally amazing.

Julian wished for fish tacos for dinner, so I took the boys across the street to our neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Then we came home, opened more gifts, and crashed. As in, I’m sitting here with the rest of the boxed wine and a bag of M&Ms.

I’m tired. Birthdays are a lot of work. And this was only 50%! Arthur’s is on Sunday.

That said, when I put the boys to bed tonight, I said to Julian, “I hope you felt special and loved today. You’re so lucky to have such good friends.” And he said, “Thank you, Mama, for everything you did today.”

And that is all I needed to hear.

Coney Island

Today was the only day of spring break that we didn’t have any plans/speech/play dates scheduled, so I decided to take the boys to Coney Island. It was our second trip this year, and I plan to add at least 10 more by September. It is our favorite, favorite place. And it’s so easy to get there!

Once we arrived, even before the rides had opened, we needed hot dogs.

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Next up: rides.

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Then: Wonder Wheel.

I’m seriously so scared of the swinging cars, but the boys insist, and won’t hold my hand, so I just scream and have fun. Then: more rides.

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The boys went on this roller coaster last year. This time around I think Arthur became intimidated half way through the ride, because I saw him putting his head on Julian’s shoulder, and the way he sought comfort like this made my heart melt. Of course he didn’t admit that he was scared at all.

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Then we played on the beach for a good while…

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…had ice cream…

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…and headed home.

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This and that and more of that

It’s been about a month since I last wrote (not counting an update on our trip to Mexico). We’ve just been busy. And sick. And just doing everyday life things. And just feeling kind of meh, all around. But now it’s officially spring, and even though it’s still cold outside, I know the sun is out there, and the days are already longer, and that makes me happy.

Lately, after school and if the sun’s out, we’ve been heading to the playground near the boys’ schools, and one by one people will trickle in, and the kids will play for hours while the parents hang out together. It’s been nice. I love that everyone plays together at Julian’s school, from little siblings to the 4th graders.

We had another parent teacher conference, and the teachers basically looked at me and said, “Julian ist ein Traumkind. Do you have any questions for us?” I was out of there in 5 minutes.

The boys have been growing closer and closer, while of course routinely pushing each other’s buttons. But they are definitely each other’s number one. They play with each other all the time, and we’ve had a couple of instances where Julian had a play date alone at a friend’s house but came to me and confided that he just missed his brother.

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It has also happened that only one of them was invited to a birthday party and refused to go without his brother. I certainly encourage them to foster friendships with other kids, and they do, but they always have this other person as a real safe bet, and I think that is kind of amazing.

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At night, after we’ve read a book and put the boys to bed, Julian will read to Arthur for another 30 minutes. I love hearing his little voice working its way through the pages, and I love that Julian enjoys reading so much.

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Today I took Arthur on an adventure day. We’ve been kind of sluggish for weeks it seems, stuck inside, running errands, doing laundry. So today I took my boy to the Natural History Museum, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

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It’s always fun to spend time alone with one of the boys. I don’t do it enough.

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After the museum, we met Papa for lunch at a diner by his work.

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A good kick-off to the weekend!

Mexico, Round Two

Mexico. What can I say?

We came back to Brooklyn and were hit immediately by a snow storm. So this has been us, mostly, for the past week:

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But in our minds, we are all still here:

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We had the best time. We tried a different hotel this time, about two doors down from where we stayed last year. Our hut was one of the ones in the back; you could see the ocean from our porch and hear the waves at night. And we could send the boys outside to play – a luxury we don’t normally have.

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We sat on our porch a bit, sipping wine, and talking when the kids slept at night. Or in between our beach adventures and going out to dinner at night.

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If you were to ask me how many tacos we consumed, I couldn’t tell you. Probably 50? We always started our day with breakfast at the hotel, usually fruit and yogurt and pancakes. And a huge chocolate milk for the boys. They drew so much during this vacation, and Julian has become a very confident if not correct speller, so that has made for some pretty hilarious artwork.

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We also played lots of Uno.

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After breakfast we chose a beach and spent the day bumming around, drinking beer, and playing in the waves. Also, I plowed through this book during vacation; I could not put it down.

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I worked on a really awkward suntan.

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One morning we checked out one of the Cenotes. It was cool! But the boys were intimidated, and it took us an hour to get them to come into the water – which was pretty cold. But they did it, and Julian actually ventured forth into the caves with Papa. We saw fish and turtles and were really hungry for tacos afterwards.

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In our hotel we met a friendly lizard. Just kidding, he was terrified of the boys, of course. But they were excited to meet him. The first time we saw him, Arthur ran inside to grab his toy lizard, his most beloved possession, and the boys followed the lizard around. Julian was convinced that the real lizard would eventually accept the toy lizard as his baby. (Spoiler alert: he did not.)

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We were not ready to come home, but we had to.

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Julian was sad about having missed math at school, and science, and we all know no amount of tacos and ice cream can make up for missing math. Not even if you add them all up. Until next time, Mexico!

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